The Power of Context vs. Genetics

2007 Words9 Pages
In the article “The Power of Context”, Malcolm Gladwell theorizes that context, or external pressure, contributes much more to an individual’s behavior than previously thought. The context that Gladwell refers to can be defined by the situation an individual is in. Within a particular situation there are influencing factors, such as people or the environment that he or she is surrounded by. He further argues that his concepts, such as the Broken Windows Theory, are the main reasons for the dramatic fall of crime rates in New York during the 1990s. In this case, the broken window is a signal that the community in New York was neglected, causing others to commit other types of crimes too. Once the window is repaired, people will feel less neglected and refrain from committing other crimes. However, recent studies and experiments, discussed in Caitlin M. Jones’ article “Genetic and Environmental Influences on Criminal Behavior”, show results that both contradict and support Gladwell, stating that genes also play a vital role in the outcomes of individuals’ behaviors. Other theories have also emerged; one of the more surprising ones coming from economist Rick Nevin, discussed in Shankar Vedantam’s “Research Links Lead Exposure, Criminal Activity”. Here, his theory argues that a high level of lead exposure leads to more violent behavior due to lead being a neurotoxin that causes impulsivity and aggression. Although context and external pressures have a much more significant impact on our actions than previously thought, it has been argued that it is the interaction between genes and the environment, both physical and social, that really determines criminal behavior. In Gladwell’s article, the main focus of his argument is that people are affected by their surroundings more than previously thought. The influence that our immediate environment has on us is the
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